Our second print is the restoration of LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND Sunday strip which was originally published in the July 15, 1906.
Winsor McCay was not only a brilliant artist & animator, he understood the technical aspects of the relatively new color printing process. He puts this knowledge to wonderful use by replacing most of the line work from panel 6 in the blue plate, creating a unique look for Nemo's transition from sleep to reality.
An interesting note… One of the 'tear sheets' ( original printing ) that we acquired had the black line missing for Nemo in panel 6. I assume that the printer simply forgot to 'strip' in that area of black where the rest of the line art was moved to the blue plate. The other possibility is that it was intentionally removed, thinking that it was left on the black plate by mistake. Either way, it's a wonderful example of how drastic the changes could be from the version printed in Los Angeles from the version printed in NYC.
McCay's style of outlining his characters with thicker lines is often lost in the original printings, as well as subsequent reprints, due to excessive ink coverage, poorly produced printing plates, and/ or simply by the inevitable wearing-down of the plate during the print run.
The big obstacle for this page was the title panel. The original art was missing for the first panel and needed to be recreated using the various tear-sheets we had on hand.
Using scans from those original printings we were able to piece together the best portions of each printing, then decipher the line art all the way down to the pixel-level. We differentiate what is actually line art from what was excessive ink or any of a number of different printing problems.
This also brought about an important question for us regarding our goals for the Masters Series… Since our mission here is to restore illustrations from original art, and since we know that many pieces of original art will have missing pieces, whether they be small rips & tears or entire panels missing, "How much missing artwork is too much missing artwork?" At what point do we say "We are recreating too much of this illustration and it no longer feels like we are presenting the actual work of the artist?"
I don't have an answer for that yet. I'm hoping that when the time comes, I'll recognize it.
This will also segue into a future post about my feelings that ALL reproductions, even a scan or a photocopy from original art, is an interpretation of the original art, and it's the skill of the person doing the reproduction that is just as important as the source material they are working from. Stay tuned!